When it comes to common online searches like, “how does Bitcoin work,” “what’s a fidget spinner,” or “best boutique hotel in Lisbon,” billions of people around the world turn to Google every day. Travelers today are seeking out metasearch websites to compare flights, search for accommodation, and book their trips. What is metasearch and how can hotels, hostels, and other accommodations use these search engines to level the playing field? Let’s take a look.
First, a metasearch website aggregates data from other search engines to produce a list of results from various sources across the internet. When it comes to the travel market, metasearch engines let travelers compare hotel room rates from various online travel agencies (OTAs) and other booking sites all in one place. The biggest players in travel-related metasearch include Google, Tripadvisor, Kayak, and Trivago. The value proposition of using these websites is that travelers can search availability and compare prices across the internet, including various OTAs and branded hotel websites.
How is this different from advertising on an OTA? Rather than paying a commission fee per booking to an OTA, hotels pay a cost per click or a cost per acquisition (booking). In other words, you only pay when a guest clicks on your ad or books. You can even set how much you want to bid for each click (or booking) and adjust bids to optimize your overall strategy.
Meet the Metasearch Players
Here’s who you need to know and why.
Google needs no formal introduction and introduces a fascinating dynamic to the travel industry. With Google Hotel Ads campaigns, you can showcase your hotel on Google.com and Google Maps across desktops, tablets, and mobile devices. Google recently integrated its Hotel Finder into search, allowing you to retrieve a list of hotels with prices, photos, reviews and street-view panoramas. Most importantly, your ad and your brand will show up in prime real estate right alongside the OTAs. To illustrate, look at the example of Cloudbeds’ client Pension Santa Elena.
Trivago reports that the website gets 2 billion visits per year (you may have seen one of their infamous television ads). Trivago offers a tool called Rate Connect that works as a CPC campaign with a set monthly budget determined by you. In regard to reviews, Trivago publishes a “rating index” based on reviews aggregated from travel sites across the web like Expedia and Hotels.com.
Tripadvisor has been a staple in the travel industry for decades and has several options that hotels can use to drive reservations. TripAdvisor has been slowly moving away from Instant Booking which allows guests to book their stay from within Tripadvisor. Rather, the company has been giving preference to their CPC Campaigns which if you haven’t guessed, follows the same approach as other metasearch players and drives hotel bookings.
In addition to these 3 major players, other metasearch engines include Kayak, Wego, Nozio, Skyscanner and Swoodoo. Only time will tell if mega giants like Facebook or Amazon will get into the travel business? It is an interesting space to watch and we anticipate more consolidation in the future.
Strategies and Tips for Success on Metasearch
Metasearch is growing. And will continue to get smarter
With machine learning and other emerging technologies on the rise, metasearch websites will only get smarter. You can bet that Google already knows your age, location, hobbies and interests. While the notion of their vast power may scare you, it’s already a reality and metasearch engines will continue to leverage this data to help advertisers target their ideal customers (and deliver your ideal guests). For example, you can set your hotel ad campaign on Google to target business travelers during the week or overseas tourists on weekends.
A new opportunity to capture and own the guest relationship
One of the big differentiators with metasearch is that it allows travelers to book directly through your own website vs booking via an OTA. That being said, when a traveler arrives at your website, your booking engine must be modern, user-friendly and inspire confidence so the guest ultimately completes the booking. Booking engines, like the one offered by Cloudbeds, should also be seamlessly integrated with your website. Because Google and other metasearch engines are sending traffic from desktop AND mobile, it is imperative that your website is mobile friendly and designed to work across all devices.
Most importantly, metasearch allows you to truly own the guest relationship because you receive their contact information directly. This way, you’re in control of the guest relationship and you cut out the middleman. With savvy email marketing and communication, you can drive guest loyalty and get them to book directly with you for their next stay.
Optimize ad campaigns and pay fewer commissions
The metasearch model is different from using OTAs, but it’s certainly not free. However, with new tools like AdsHotel, you have a central dashboard to track your ad spend and optimize your campaigns. Plus, you can easily set your budget by channel. And if the thought of managing a budget overwhelms you, AdsHotel offers cutting-edge AI technology to help you make strategic decisions.
Keep in mind that the best reservation is the one that pays the property the most in value (Total RevPAR) and was acquired through the least expense (Cost of Acquisition or CaC). Still, you can also make the case that a guest acquired via metasearch is more valuable because you gain the opportunity to re-market to this guest, commission-free. It’s also important to note that you can’t simply take the attitude of “set it and forget it” when it comes to managing your advertising campaigns. You have to actively monitor and manage your budget to ensure you get the maximum return on investment (ROI).
The Importance of Strong Revenue Management Practices
Your pricing strategy matters, especially with metasearch. Advertising on metasearch engines can give you the same visibility as some of the largest OTAs. With that amount of exposure, you need to ensure that your direct rates are competitive with your rates on third-party channels. Without rate parity, your ads will not be as effective and the campaign will not provide as great of a return. A channel manager is critical if you want to maintain rate parity across all channels. From your PMS and revenue management tool to your booking engine and channel manager, everything needs to be in sync. Although we may be biased, this makes a pretty good case for using an all-in-one solution.
How to get started
In order to launch your Google Ads Hotel campaign, you’ll need to work with an authorized Integration Partner. These partners provide your hotel’s rates and availability to Google. Cloudbeds is excited to announce that we are now integrated with AdsHotel, providing a seamless connection to your entire property management suite. AdsHotel also connects to Tripadvisor, Trivago, Kayak, Wego, Nozio, Skyscanner and Swoodoo. Get started today!